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Above left: Hibriten High School announced Maddox Whittington has signed his national letter of intent to continue his education and play golf at Gardner-Webb University. Pictured, sitting from left, are Tammy Whittington (mother), Maddox Whittington and Jeff Whittington (father). Pictured, standing from left, are Panthers athletic director Derek Reeves, Tucker Whittington (brother), Hibriten assistant golf coach Ranger Tucker, head golf coach Larry Taylor and Hibriten principal Courtney Wright. Above right: The school also announced that Charis Keen will continue her soccer career at Concord University in Athens, W.Va. Pictured, front row from left, are Regan Keen (sister), Charis Keen and Darby Keen (sister). Pictured, back row from left, are Reeves, CVYSA coach Jesus Garcia, Colleen Keen (mother), Hibriten girls soccer coach Shea Bridges and Wright.

Panthers announce pair of signings

School system restores face mask mandate
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LENOIR — Face mask coverings will be required for students, staff, and faculty of Caldwell County Schools (CCS) this week. The mandate took effect Monday (Jan. 10) through Friday (Jan. 14), with the status to be updated weekly.

The status of face coverings will be updated each week and posted on the CCS central website, as well as on individual schools’ websites.

“With COVID-19 cases reaching pandemic highs, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services urges K-12 schools to promote vaccination and boosters for students and staff and require students and staff wear masks indoors to keep students in the classroom and limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services stated in a Friday, Jan. 7 press release.

The CCS Board of Education adopted the “Face Coverings” policy on Nov. 8, 2021. The policy defines the metric used to determine the positivity COVID rate for CCS students, staff, and faculty. The positivity rate is used to determine the need for face coverings in school. According to CCS spokeswoman Libby Brown, face coverings are required when the positivity rate “exceeds one-half of 1% of the positivity metric.” The positivity rate reflects calculations of a three week average. This past week, the metric reflected a positive average of 0.83%.

Brown shared that approximately 40% of CCS staff and faculty have received COVID vaccinations, which is less than the county’s average. According to the Caldwell County COVID-19 Dashboard, 46% of Caldwell County residents have been fully vaccinated and 49% of its residents have received at least one vaccination dose.

Vaccinations for COVID are not required to enroll in CCS. However, Caldwell County COVID data reflects that approximately 2,055 school aged children living in Caldwell County have received vaccinations. Caldwell County’s vaccination rate among school age children are as follows: 5.3% of children ages 5-11 are fully vaccinated; 7.6% children ages 5-11 have received at least one vaccination dose; 23.5% Children ages 12-17 are fully vaccinated; and 26.1% children ages 12-17 have received at least one vaccination dose.

Caldwell County’s positivity COVID rate is below the state’s pace of infection. Currently, Caldwell County has a 21.5% positive rate while North Carolina has a 31.1% daily positive rate.

Prior to the restored mandate, CCS has not required face masks since Nov. 8 and when face coverings were made optional. Face masks were optional Aug. 23 — 30, then required through Nov. 8.

Retiring police officer finds next way to serve
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After 28 years of devotion to the community, Sgt. James Moore will retire from the Lenoir Police Department on Feb. 1. But his work will not end. In fact, his new service to community comes from a higher calling.

Moore began his career in law enforcement with the Lenoir Police Department on Jan. 13, 1994. Moore was born in Lenoir and raised in the West End. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in ministry from Liberty University.

“Sgt. James Moore plays a vital role in the Lenoir Police Department team,” said police Chief Brent Phelps. “It is bittersweet to think about Sgt. Moore retiring. Retirement is not given; it is earned. Sgt. Moore has definitely earned the right to step back from our profession. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to find people willing to serve others before serving themselves.

“When you think about the term ‘community police officer,’ Sgt. James Moore is a great example of that,” Phelps continued. “James grew up in this community, went to school in this community, and has served this community for close to 30 years in the law enforcement profession. We wish him the best in his next season of life.

Moore graduated from West Caldwell High School in 1984. While in school, Moore shared that his ROTC teachers, Col. Morrison and Chief Parham, were influential role models; they were both ex-military and that was something that he had hoped to do after he finished school.

“Find positive role models in your life and go under their wings and listen and take guidance from them,” Moore said about his advice to students struggling to find success in school.

Throughout his young life, Moore had strong connections and support from his family and community. Moore’s mother, Nellie Scott, died before he graduated from high school. His mother and his grandparents, Jake and Wilhemenia “MamaMeaner’’ Scott, taught him values. Their influence and guidance played a big role in developing his spirituality. He feels that his mother would be proud of his accomplishments.

Growing up he had support from his community and the influence of many different people.

“My whole street community when I was growing up was just like a village. Gosh, there were just so many [people]; there were the Norwoods, the Perkins, the Hartsoes, all the neighbors on that little group area, Corpening Place and Hill Street,” Moore said. “Back then it was just like when you hear people talk about a village — it was a true village back then. So, there are just so many to name.”

Moore shared that he started thinking about becoming a law enforcement officer in 1993. At that time, he was working in the furniture industry, which was an unstable market. The fragile future of the furniture industry led him to contemplate securing a sustainable career. Also, he wanted to work in a field that he felt he would enjoy. It was during this time one of his friends, Rusty Corpening who was a deputy sheriff, talked with him about law enforcement. Inspired by deputy Corperning, Moore joined him on a few ride-alongs.

Becoming a law enforcement officer offered Moore the opportunity to work with people.

“Being law enforcement as a way of giving back to your community; helping people,” Moore said. “When I started I was the only African American law enforcement officer in this whole county for at least seven to eight years, or maybe even longer.”

Being new to law enforcement presented challenges. In the beginning, Moore said he felt that he lacked basic skills and the confidence that was needed to talk with people. Along the way, he learned how to communicate with people and overtime, “being a law enforcement officer taught me to have more confidence in myself.”

He credited his growth as an officer to having a heart for people and to God’s guidance.

“I wanted to help people and I wanted to give back to the community,” Moore said. “I thank God because He showed me how to do that and allowed me to just be who I am. I took the attitude that I am not responsible for how people treat me, but I am responsible for how I treat people. I feel like because of God’s leadership and guidance that’s the only way I was prepared and made it.”

There have been moments in his career when he was afraid.

“You can’t do this job without being afraid,” he said. “Every day you put that uniform on there is a certain amount of fear, because in this job you don’t know what to expect. You gotta be able to adjust to the unexpected, because nothing is normal.”

For other officers who may experience fearful moments, Sgt. Moore would encourage them to, “Look to God and just pray. Honestly, that’s what got me through this career this far and not only just in this job, but in everything in life. You just gotta look back to what the word of God says. That’s why it’s important that as a minister, or a Christian that you know this; so whenever you come across these situations that’s what you know that you can fall back on. And not only does it help you in life, but you can share that with someone else who may be going through something when you deal with them; that’s the greatest thing about being in this field, being a minister, and a Christian.”

Although there are challenges in law enforcement, there are always moments that uplift an officer’s spirit. These moments often come at unexpected times.

“I always worked the football games at Hibriten, and some gentlemen was walking by with his family and he says, ‘That’s the best officer in Caldwell County, because if it hadn’t been for him, I would be dead right now,’ ” Moore recalled. “I have had several people to tell me that their lives have changed because of me.’’

Moore said he has benefited from anonymous acts of kindness and gratitude, like when someone has paid for a meal, or when someone says, “Thank you for your service.”

Perceptions and attitudes toward law enforcement have changed over the years. Moore finds the community has a more positive view of law enforcement. He shared that when he was growing up the only time one saw a police officer was when they were called, or needed. Officers were not visible in the community in a positive manner. But now, “we have officers who go out and spend their own money. If they see there’s a need, they try to take care of that need.” Moore said.

He believes community policing has worked to build bridges and trust between the community and law enforcement.

Throughout his career, Sgt. Moore had other law enforcement professionals who demonstrated support. he extended gratitude for the influence of: Chief Joey Reynolds, “influenced me to go back to school and to get my degrees; Guy Myers, “he was just always there for me.”; and Derrick Poarch, “gave me the chance”; and Chief Brent Phelps, “he was very inspirational. He was the first chief that would come in and pray — we would be going through different things. He would share things with me that we would pray about, and I would share things with him that would pray about.”

Moore has also contributed his influence to new officers as well.

“I vividly remember the very first interaction I had with Sgt. Moore. I was 13 years old and staying overnight at my uncle’s house,” Sgt. Chris Bumgarner recalled. “My grandmother called my uncle and had Sgt. Moore on a three-way call asking to speak to me. Sgt. Moore was reaching out to invite me to an Explorer meeting, a program designed to introduce young people to the field of law enforcement. I vividly recall this phone call, as if it occurred just yesterday. That interaction initiated what would become years of mentorship and friendship.

“Sgt. Moore (then Master Patrol Officer Moore) would allow me to spend at least one shift every other week-end riding-along with him. This was very exciting for me, a teenager so consumed by all-things law enforcement to be riding along with a police officer on such a regular basis,” Bumgarner continued. “I was always struck by how many people knew Sgt. Moore....It seemed to me then, and is a known fact to me now, that Sgt. Moore embodied what it meant to be a community-oriented police officer.”

Last month, Sgt. Moore was honored with the Officer of the Year Award.

Moore is looking forward to retirement and he is ready for the transition. He is already a full-time minister. While working full-time with Lenoir police, he pastors West End Mennonite Church, including preparing for Wednesday night Bible study and Sunday’s message. He also plans on working for AutoZone.

But what he is really looking forward to is spending more time with his “pride and joy”, granddaughter Aubrie, and hopes that he will be able to take his Aubrie to school some mornings.

Sgt. Moore lives with his wife, Sarah. He has two children from a previous marriage, daughter Ashley Moore, and son Jamie Moore.

“I would like to recognize my family because they have been very supportive of me from the beginning to the end. I’ve lost three of my siblings. My siblings that I have now, they have been very supportive. So, without them being supportive, I couldn’t have made it. I just want to give some credit to them.“ Moore said.

As he reflects on his career, he doesn’t have any regrets and he feels like he couldn’t have chosen a better career, besides ministry.

“It is important for people to know about God’s mercy and that he is number one and if people would really seek his face and serve him that this world would be a better place. It is important for people to know that Jesus is our risen savior.”

Author to sign her work at Tybrisa Books
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LENOIR — Tybrisa Books in downtown Lenoir is set to host a book signing by Belinda Grimbeek, local children’s picture book author and illustrator, on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Books written by the author will be available for purchase. Tybrisa Books sells the books of 24 local authors.

“It’s about the authors. Several of them [authors] have written multiple books and self-published,” said Michelle Mahaffey, owner/operator of Tybrisa Books. “It is an opportunity to give them a forum to bring their books to and to give them an opportunity for more people to know who they are.”

Originally from South Africa, Grimbeek and her husband’s story is an adventure of a young couple looking to explore the world and their new life together. Today, Grimbeek, her husband, and their three children live in Happy Valley. Grimbeek has written, illustrated, and self-published, through Bearhead Books, three endearing and inspiring children’s picture books including: “The Very Thirsty Butterfly,” “Red’s Nest,” and “Hello Mom.” She is currently working on another children’s story.

Her first book, “The Very Thirsty Butterfly” (June, 2020), is a story of a journey, perseverance, and renewal of life. It has a 5-star rating on According to Kirkus Reviews, a children’s book review magazine since 1933, “The Very Thirsty Butterfly” is a “visually appealing tale [that] gently relates the colorful life story of a monarch butterfly.”

“Red’s Nest” (July, 2021) is about the love of family and fostering. “Red’s Nest” is featured under the Kirkus Reviews as one of the “Best Indie Children’s Animal Books of 2021.” According to Kirkus, “Red’s Nest” is, “a heartwarming, inventive animal tale about making room for unexpected love.” The story is illustrated with vibrant colors. Grimbeek shared that “Red’s Nest” is a, “simple cartoon style artwork with a hint of humor.”

“Hello Mom” (November, 2021) is a poetic story of the miracle of life told from the unique perspective of the developing fetus. According to Kirkus Reviews, Grimbeek uses “active, rhythmic language” to tell the story. On her website Grimbeek shared, “Hello Mom” is as much a description of the miracle of life, as it is an intimate message from an unborn baby to her mother.”

Writing, illustrating, and publishing a children’s book comes with challenges and requires resilience and a dedication to the process and to the art of writing and illustrating. One challenge is the limited choice of publishing markets. Authors must choose whether to publish in the mainstream market, or the christian market; there is no hybrid market. Self-publishing under Bearhead Books offers Grimbeek the freedom to reach a broader audience across markets.

“Becoming a self published author has given me the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however, I want. I enjoy the freedom to do my own thing,” Grimbeek said.

Selecting an illustrator can also present challenges. Although an author may share their own ideas and hopes for the artwork, illustrators retain the artistic liberty to reflect their own interpretation of the story in their drawings.

“You may say how you see your character. For example, red curly hair, or wearing a red polka dress, or you might describe the background with a full moon and an eclipse, but basically the illustrator has the free reign to draw the book the way they want to.” Grimbeek said.

One challenge of writing and illustrating a children’s picture book is the limited time the author has to tell a story which will convey a message. Many children’s picture books are short and may contain 500 words and approximately 32 pages of story illustrations.

“Writing a picture book is like landing a plane in 200 yards,” Grimbeek said.

Regardless of the length, writing and illustrating is a process.

“You write it, you critique it, then you leave it and let it stew,” she added.

Part of the process involves refining one’s craft by seeking critique and feedback from other authors and illustrators. In addition to meeting with other authors and illustrators, Grimbeek attends conferences.

Writing a children’s book is a personal process. Grimbeek shared that writing a story may take years and the journey is unique to each author.

“In the book industry, our [an author’s] journey to becoming a published author or illustrator is very personal and it is a different journey for everyone,” she said.

Tybrisa Books is located 210 Main St. NW, Lenoir.